Monday, October 24, 2011

theatre notes. Pinter Fortnightly.

It's the second time I've seen Moonlight, now. The first time was at my first Pinter Fortnightly reading, a little over two years ago. A little over two years and perhaps a dozen plays later, and I have come full circle. The audience has tripled, and the series has moved down into the intimacy of the Bullitt Cabaret, with proper lighting and a better arrangement of seats. I see a lot of familiar faces, ardent fans who come to nearly every reading. Billie Wildrick, who was so lovely in Betrayal, is here, and Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi, who was perfectly hilarious as the waiter that same play (his day job is being the managing director of ACT).

The cast is different this time, save for Frank Corrado, who plays Andy, and Michael Winters, who plays Ralph. Kathleen Chalfant is Andy's wife, Bel; she's flown out from New York to participate, and she gives Bel a kind of unnerving deep serenity, with her beautifully calm face and black-velvet voice. I'm glad to see Suzy Hunt, who has a wide, curling, amused mouth which gives Maria a sort of sensuous humor, and Darragh Kennan and Josh Carter as Bel and Andy's sons, slip easily into the swift rhythm of banter that only happens between siblings who have created a language all their own. The heart of the play is Jessica Martin, who plays Andy and Bel's daughter, Bridget, whose death seems to have split her family into two halves - her parents on one side, her brothers on the other, each locked into their own world.

It goes without saying that Moonlight has its moments of hilarity (lots of them). But still, it's a heartbreaking play, especially once you know that Pinter was completely estranged from his only son. (I said this already, last time). During the discussion afterwards, someone says something to the effect that Pinter never talked about this sadness, this void, but I think of this play as his way of addressing the loss. His former wife, his son's mother, had died from alcoholism; Pinter had remarried and gained six step-children which surrounded him with a new family. I wonder if at the time of writing (1993 or thereabouts) Pinter had already accepted that he would never see his son again; perhaps this was his way of achieving a kind of peace. Certainly Andy never makes peace with his sons, who can't or won't come to his deathbed, nor the nonexistent grandchildren which his dead daughter might have had, if she'd lived. Bel does, though, calling her sons and cutting short their verbal games. I think of it as a way of saying good-bye.

What I love here is the language of Bel and Andy's exchanges, the deep understanding between two people who have known each other for a long time. Who have been married for a long time. Who know all the places to hit where it hurts and who also know how to step aside and avoid the blows. A marriage and a family are two separate things; this is sometimes hard to see and even harder to understand, and Moonlight is about that dance between the two. I love it more this time, after two years and a dozen plays. I could see it again and again, and find something new.

After the play, I go up to tell Michael Winters that I've loved his work since Shadowlands. "But you must have been a wee child at the time!" he says. He is warm and funny, like all the other actors I have accosted over the past year, and I am reminded again of how important it is to go up to people you have loved for a long time and tell them, thank you, thank you, thank you.

ACT and Pinter Fortnightly.

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